by Jason Kramer, Executive Director, New York State Higher Education Initiative
Here we are in the information age and librarians – information professionals – everywhere seem glum. Shrinking budgets and changing technology are frightening and worse, but if librarians do not take a more active role in defining the future someone else will do it. The result for the librarian and the library could be disastrous.
The firmament has been shaken and we are in the midst of the third great revolution in information. In the first the great Library at Alexandria sparked a revolution in collecting information. In the second, Gutenberg’s press changed forever the way information is disseminated. Now, in our digital age, information is being collected, disseminated, and created like never before. Amidst this eruption in information the librarian should be more important than ever.
If this opportunity were not enough to motivate you to be “future ready,” consider the challenges. The rise of the internet has many questioning the relevance of libraries and widespread fiscal and budget problems threaten the funding of even the most beloved library.
Ready or not, the future is here. The choice before you is to affect the change all around you, or merely absorb it.
One way forward is to wield a none-too-subtle mace. Through Marketing, Advocacy, Collaboration, and Experimentation, you can mold the future.
Marketing the library involves educating everyone about the role and importance of libraries. With a clear consistent message it is possible to capture attention and minds.
Advocating for the library is a task that falls to each of us. The decision-makers and stakeholders of our libraries must be persistently lobbied. They must be brought to understand that libraries are not a money-eating building, but a dynamic tool that can solve greater problems. Information is the raw material of the information age, with libraries the vital infrastructure for progress.
Collaboration is a habit that must be extended beyond the usual partners. Think of non-traditional collaborations. Business, entrepreneurs, researchers, health practitioners, mechanics, programmers and nearly everyone else relies on information to succeed in their jobs. Work together and they will become your best advocates.
Finally it falls to us to experiment. Pursue your goal, but always try new approaches, different angles, and creative collaborations. No one has ever succeeded in anything grand on the first effort. Keep at it.
Now is the moment to build the library of tomorrow. The future is ready for you, are you ready for the future?
Jason Kramer is the Executive Director of the New York State Higher Education Initiative, a non-profit organization advocating for the interests of the public and private academic and research libraries of the state. He has held various public affairs and communications positions and served as a guest lecturer at several colleges and universities in New York.